News In Brief

The administration requested an additional $300 million for security improvements next year at embassies and other overseas diplomatic missions. Some members of Congress had criticized as woefully inadequate plans to spend only $3 billion on security-related construction over the next five years. Overall, US officials now want to spend $11.4 billion over 10 years on embassy security - including $8.4 billion for construction and almost $3 billion for such security measures as additional guards and monitoring equipment.

A plan to require that health policies insuring federal workers offer coverage for mental health and substance-abuse problems at the same level as other illnesses was unveiled by the Clinton administration. The proposal, which would affect 9 million people nationwide, is designed as a model for private-sector plans, White House officials said. It was also part of a package of mental-health initiatives to be discussed at a White House conference on mental health at Howard University in Washington. The conference was to be chaired by Tipper Gore, wife of Vice President Al Gore and a longtime activist on mental-health issues.

A federal judge in San Francisco was to take up the case of Pavlo Lazarenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister accused of stealing $72.1 million from his impoverished nation. The court must decide whether the US should extradite Lazarenko to Switzerland to face charges that he stored laundered money in bank accounts there. Lazarenko admits moving money to some Swiss accounts, but says he can prove these funds are legally his. While applying for asylum in the US, Lazarenko said he was in danger of being tortured or killed if sent back to his native land.

The Supreme Court rejected, without comment, arguments by environmental groups that the US government - having failed to meet legal deadlines for reducing noise from sightseeing planes flying over the Grand Canyon - must act immediately to reduce the noise. Meanwhile, the court resolved in favor of Amoco a dispute between the energy company and the Southern Ute Indian tribe in Colorado. The justices ruled that methane gas found under the tribe's reservation is not part of the coal the US government owns in trust for the tribe. Amoco had argued successfully that its contractual right to take natural gas from the reservation land also allows it to take the methane gas. The disputed methane has an estimated value of more than $200 million.

Ford will surpass General Motors in vehicle production by 2005, a private research group predicted. The report, produced by Autofacts, says Ford production will grow to about 9.15 million cars and trucks in 2005 from an estimated 7.77 million this year. During the same period, the report forecasts GM production growing from 8.08 million vehicles to some 9.1 million. Meanwhile, in total revenues, Ford may overtake its longtime competitor this year, following its $6.5 billion acquisition of Volvo.

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